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Bob Gates has unusual standing in the debate about the Obama administration's foreign policy: He was defense secretary both for a hawkish President George W. Bush and then a wary President Obama. He understood Bush's desire to project power and Obama's skepticism.Gates characteristically finds a middle ground in the argument that has been swirling since Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic magazine article examining Obama's reluctance to use military force in Syria and the broader Middle East. Gates criticized the current National Security Council's implementation of policy, arguing that "micromanagement" by a very large NSC staff undercut Obama's efforts to use power against the Daesh or contain China in the South China Sea.Gates credited Obama for moving toward better-calibrated policies that would send a stronger message, such as greater use of Special Operations Forces on the ground in Syria and Iraq, and more aggressive moves to assert freedom of navigation in the Pacific.Gates said he still talks to Obama occasionally, but he declined to elaborate.
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